In January of 2017, I facilitated “Writing Hope” with women being assisted to transition from homelessness by Acadiana Outreach, as six-week poetry writing workshop and reading of the women’s work at Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church.
My second full-length poetry collection, Seek the Holy Dark, was released at The Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference (AWP) in Washington D.C. I read with other Yellow Flag Press poets, and poets affiliated with Gigantic Sequins Press and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette at George Washington University Textile Museum. I belatedly celebrated my daughter’s 21st birthday in D.C. with her!
March was the Lafayette book release of Seek the Holy Dark at Reve Coffee Roasters. Friends far and near came and it was wonderful. As part of the promotion of the book’s release, I was interviewed on KRVS by Judith Meriwether and an article appeared locally in The Independent.
In April, I read at the Maple Leaf Bar. Such a wonderful thing to connect more deeply with poet-friends in NOLA in 2017. Also, in April I was invited to read at the State Library by Poet Laureate Peter Cooley.
Later in the month, I organized a reading with Jack Bedell and Darrell Bourque (current and former Poet Laureates, respectively) at the Paul and Lulu Hilliard Art Museum, to celebrate Yellow Flag Press’s Louisiana Cajun and Creole Series designees, as the three of us are.
Mid-April, I started a new job with Childress Communications as a content writer and ghostwriter! I also joined Connections Professional Networking and PRAL Acadiana to help my friend-boss, Dr. Cynthia Childress grow her firm.
In June, I was a featured poet at the Latter Library in New Orleans, thanks to poet Gina Ferrara. Always love my traveling Fairy Godmother, Bessie Senette, who is a love whirlwind in my life and shared so much of this exciting year with me.
October marked the occasion of the Louisiana Book Festival at which I was a featured author. As a panelist, I read with other women poets of Louisiana, selected by Current Poet Laureate, Jack Bedell.
November was the 10th Annual Festival of Words, which was heartily celebrated in Grand Coteau.
In December, I attended the Penchant Group’s first women’s’ writing retreat at the cabin in the woods (a wonderful spot at Chicot State Park, LA). It snowed!!
I edited and published three issues of MockingHeart Review, and interviewed several MHR poets (as many as I could muster).
I also organized, with musician and teacher, Esther Tyree, a Hurricane Harvey fundraiser at Artmosphere. Highlights continued with readings around Acadiana with dear poet friends.
Whew! Despite boughts of severe depression and financial trauma, I am so proud to say that I am sharing my gifts with the world.
Clare L. Martin’s second collection of poetry, Seek the Holy Dark, is the 2017 selection of the Louisiana Cajun and Creole Series by Yellow Flag Press. Her acclaimed debut collection of poetry, Eating the Heart First, was published by Press 53. Martin’s poetry has appeared in Thrush Poetry Journal, Poets and Artists, and Louisiana Literature, among others. She founded and edits MockingHeart Review.
Poet and author, Diane Moore, reviews Seek the Holy Dark, available from Yellow Flag Press. Thank you, Diane, for your deep reading and generosity of heart.
Seek the Holy Dark is the 2017 selection of the Louisiana Series of Cajun and Creole Poetry by Yellow Flag Press.
Seek the Holy Dark is now available. Trade paperback, 66 pages, only $10. To order click here.
For signed copies contact Clare. $10 plus $3 shipping and handling. Paypal accepted. paypal.me/clarelmartin Please note your mailing address for book shipment.
Listen to the podcast with Judith Meriwether interviewing me about Seek the Holy Dark by Clare L Martin. It’s the second one listed on this page. Thanks to KRVS! Always doing great things for our community.
The Hanging Woman
breathes desert into her throat
spear opens rib
the most egregious of transgressions
lungs vigilant flag
Heaven’s jaw shuts
borne upon the cross
we cannot willfully die
the women tear at their smocks
to terminal moonrise
burnt to bone
new meanings of the body impaled;
all sensation thrust
from pleasured skin
blade to stone
stone to bone
bone to blood night
© 2017 Clare L. Martin
I am thrilled to announce that Yellow Flag Press will publish Seek the Holy Dark as the 2017 selection of The Louisiana Series of Cajun and Creole Poetry. Great thanks to J. Bruce Fuller for this honor. Yellow Flag Press is a Louisiana-born publishing house that is growing its national presence. I have had a long relationship with it, and I can’t think of any other affiliation that would make me as happy.
A little backstory:
For a long period of time since my mother’s death in May of 2014, I felt aimless. I was writing, but I did not have a meaningful writing project in front of me to keep me focused on the bigger picture of my Writing Life. I had material for a new manuscript, tentatively titled “Broken Jesus,” that I began to assemble after Eating the Heart First was published. Over the course of a couple of years, I abandoned hope for it and just kept writing new.
Several months ago, while having coffee with The Bayou Mystic, Bessie Senette, I expressed my feelings of a lack of purpose beyond my personal responsibilities and our writing group’s objectives. She knew that I had relinquished my roles in many of the projects I had been involved with before my mother’s death. She also knew that was very hard for me, because of my giving and ambitious nature. The deep dissatisfaction I had been living with was causing depression beyond normal grief.
Bessie listened as I shared my feelings. After a silence, Bessie stood, pointed her finger between my eyes, and said, “You need to write another damn book!” As soon as she said it, I was taken aback. I went home with a charge of energy to do exactly what she said to do. I got to work with real determination.
In December 2015, in a casual conversation, I brought up the work I was doing to J. Bruce Fuller at a writing event we were attending in Arnaudville, LA. He offered to read the manuscript. When I sent it, I had a sense that if I had to face a “no” I would reluctantly consider other options. Honestly, from that moment in Arnaudville when the opportunity opened, I desired for Seek the Holy Dark to be a YFP book. I have always had great faith in J Bruce’s integrity and the good health of his press.
[Surprisingly, in less than three days of receiving the publishing news, the cover art was selected and rights acquired. That is another story that involves my dear Bessie!!]
I am thrilled, ready, excited, and focused to bring this new work to the world. I again express thanks to J Bruce Fuller and Yellow Flag Press for this amazing opportunity.
And great thanks to Bessie for seeing my need and calling forth my energy to fulfill it.
Below is the text of my welcome note to readers of MockingHeart Review. This venture began three months ago. On January 1, the inaugural issue was released. It has been pure pleasure to work with the poets within, and I look forward to a promising future for this poetry magazine. Please spend some time with its pages. I think you will be happy that you did.
Direct link to the magazine is http://mockingheartreview.com Please bookmark it, or follow via the buttons on the site.
The 39 poets on these pages are part of an ever-widening circle of humans who seek meaning and convey their discoveries with the world. Not only do they do that, but they do it in such a way that excites the intellect and aesthetic senses. Above all, they stir the heart, that part of us that is more than muscle pumping blood, but in my ardent belief is the seat of knowledge.
In this issue, we have traversed the globe—we begin with a small drop of Louisiana poets, who welcome me in poetry-communion, and the word-current ripples to Turkey, New Zealand, Italy, and all across the USA. We have poets who are publishing for the very first time alongside poets who have well-established publishing histories. In each case, the poems on these pages touched me in some way that necessitated my inclusion of them in this first, grand issue. Future issues will not be as large (this one is a behemoth), but I trust that there is something for every reader in this Inaugural Issue.
My earnest hope for MockingHeart Review is that it will in some way strengthen relationships between poets and readers across the globe. I hope we, with our beloved readers, will find common humanity in the pages of this humble online magazine.
I feel very honored to have spent time with these poems and have a great feeling about the reception we will have.
Clare L. Martin
January 1, 2016
What are you working on?
I am working on a second manuscript of poetry with hopes for a second book. When Eating the Heart First (Press 53, 2012) was done and out in the world, I was consumed with promotion of it and became less structured/focused in my writing time. Happily though, Acadiana Wordlab had just formed that same month and regular attendance counted for me getting writing done. The weekly sessions got me refocused and recharged. I am indebted to Jonathan Penton (Google him) for his vision and work that made this great community/activity thrive. I am the coordinator now, as Jonathan has moved onto other projects. My involvment gives me great pleasure. I give and receive. I am amazed by the wonderful writers who are growing in the Acadiana community and around our state. I have many new poems that have come out of the AW drafting sessions that will hopefully make it into the manuscript.
I have a working title for the manuscript: Broken Jesus. That title comes from a line in my poem, “Convergence,” which appeared in Louisiana Literature, but the image itself comes from a black and white photograph of a broken marble statue of Jesus on the cross at an abandoned church. Ralph J Schexnaydre, Jr. took that photo back in the 1980s. The image appeared on the cover of the first literary magazine in which my work was published, my university’s journal, The Southwestern Review.
I still have that journal issue (it came out in 1989, 25 years ago) but sadly Ralph doesn’t have the image anymore. I would have asked him to allow me to use it. I do have in my house a crucifix that was my grandmother’s and grandfather’s that is broken. A limb is missing from Jesus, and perhaps I can have someone photograph it for me down the road as the manuscript shapes up.
How does your work differ from others in its genre?
The work I am drawn to, the poetry that enlivens me is work that is finely crafted, visceral, meaningful, daring, brave, honest, sharp, and lyrical and I hope that my work is these things. I want to be a dauntless writer. I want to be writing new always: pushing myself, going deeper, going harder and reaching more deeply into you, the reader. I don’t know how else to answer this question because if I am not gripped by a poet’s language, attention to craft, willingness to rend hearts and punch guts, with an almost nameless kind of love for you at the same time, I usually put the book down.
Why do you write what you do?
I write to move other human beings with my words.
How does your writing process work?
I used to be strictly tied to typing rather than writing in longhand but since I have been a devotee of Acadiana Wordlab’s mostly pen-to-paper process, I am more attuned to my hands, albeit in a different way than typing letter by letter. This is something new and fun for me, to write out drafts in notebooks. It’s something I had truly not practiced except for note-taking since getting a typewriter, then a word processor, then a computer. The words are moving from my brain to my hands but my hands know more than my mouth does.
In my at-home practice, I usually start with a free-write. I don’t wait for inspiration but because I am a constant reader, I am inspired daily. Also, those ephemeral voices (that may become lines of poetry) are a grace to which I am sharply attuned. (It can cause problems to live so far up into your head but I manage to be grounded). A word or phrase may come to me while eating buttered grits or taking a bath, and I get up, write it down, and follow where it leads. I have rushed out of the bath naked (they’ve all seen me naked around here) and gotten on the computer to get words down. My short term memory is weakening I think. I also might need to get my bathrobe out of the closet.
Sometimes if I am driving and a line comes, I will pull over and voice-record it on my phone. But the question of writing process beyond the mechanics of actually writing is that I firmly hold that I cannot call myself a writer if I am not writing. I don’t feel I deserve that name if I am not doing it in some way, and I count many ways: letter-writing, journaling, creative writing, and emails—they qualify too, if they are creatively inspired.
For many years my only writing was letter writing and it was necessary for me to have that one person as an audience. The three friends I wrote to on a regular basis are now deceased but really I owe them deep thanks for enjoying my letters and writing back. Those correspondences saved me and my writing career, whatever that is or will be, because it kept me writing. Those friends kept me writing and encouraged my writing when my days were black pages.
*Thank you to Margaret Gibson Simon for tagging me in this fun and challenging effort to enlighten others about our ways and whys of writing. She can be read at Reflections on the Teche
I am tagging:
Participate if you like and link back here! I will link to you, if you are inclined to play along.
Be well, friends.